In arguing it will be sensitive to local concerns, pipeline proponent Kinder Morgan Energy Partners talks about its experience on Tumamoc Hill.

So does the head of Tumamoc's century-old Desert Research Laboratory -- in a somewhat different vein.

In 2008, El Paso Natural Gas Company, which Kinder has since acquired, worked with the University of Arizona to preserve natural land on the hill as part of federally required gas pipeline inspection and maintenance work.

UA and county officials lauded the agreement, Kinder Morgan says. Michael Rosenzweig, director of Tumamoc’s Desert Research Laboratory, agrees the company did an excellent job, requiring removal of but one shrub to inspect an 1,800-foot pipeline stretch.

Today, Kinder Morgan is trying to convince skeptical ranchers, Pima County officials and environmentalists that it will be equally sensitive if it's allowed to build a proposed 59-mile pipeline from Tucson through the rural Altar Valley to the Mexican border.

But in 2003, when Kinder Morgan rebuilt a gasoline pipeline through Tucson following a rupture on the northwest side, it “steamrolled over any attempt at environmental concerns,” Rosenzweig says.

Working on a 1.4 mile stretch of the hill, “they cut down all the vegetation, and rolled over everything in the pathway,” he says, although the desert has since recovered faster than he expected.

“My bottom line is this. Which company are we going to be working with as a community now? El Paso Natural Gas that was helpful, or the steamrolling Kinder Morgan of 10 years ago?” Rosenzweig says.

In response, Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard Wheatley says, “I re-emphasize Kinder Morgan’s commitment to public safety, protection of the environment and operation of our facilities in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations.”